Built The Old Fashioned Way

By: Russ Allen

Jesse Lambert is building a timber-frame home in Harwich using traditional methods and tools.

Timber Frame Home Under Construction In Harwich Uses Techniques, Tools Of The Past

HARWICH – “This is how buildings were constructed all over Cape Cod back in the 17th century. Roughhewn freshly-cut timbers. Mortise and tenon joints. Fit together with no nails.”

Jesse Lambert stood beside his work-in-progress on Sisson Road as he described his approach to constructing the new workshop and office space which he began last spring. When done, it will be a 40-by-50foot, 2,000-square-foot, one-and-a-half story building mostly made with materials and with the techniques from an earlier age, using skills he learned as a carpenter, millworker and student of his mentor Andrew Shrake of Brewster, with whom he has repaired historic windmills.

Lambert’s building will not be totally the same as its predecessors. Its foundation is insulated concrete, the large main vertical beams are attached to the foundation by metal strips and bolts, and the roof will have a modern asphalt covering. The walls of the workshop will be insulated and in time the building will have windows and doors, as well as electrical and communication systems installed. Nevertheless, most of the items used in its construction will be prepared and installed as they have been centuries ago.

For instance, the main wooden beams, supplied by Brightman Sawmill of Assonet, were large rough-cut timbers when delivered to the construction site where Lambert prepares them for installation. This involves cutting them to size with appropriate mortise and tenon and other techniques that will allow them to fit together and be held in place by wooden pegs rather than metal nails, bolts or screws. For easier construction the frame roof is being built on the ground next to the existing structure. When completed it will be lifted into place by a crane and rigging supplied by Baxter Crane of West Yarmouth.

The finished building will mostly have the appearance of structures made centuries ago. Rough cut planks will be attached to the outer sides of the structural beams, and two to three inches of insulation and a layer of plywood will cover the outside of the boards. Cedar shingles will then form the outer visible shell of the walls.

“I have been inspired to accomplish this project by the mentorship of Andrew Shrake, a well-known millworker from Brewster, and our work together repairing and restoring gristmills around the Lower and Outer Cape. I have learned many of the skills I needs for this project from Andy,” Lambert said.

While a practical need will be met for Lambert and his business when the building is completed, when asked why he is undertaking such a project, he responds simply, “Because I can.”